Pester power drives 763m family eat-out visits per year in Britain, reports NPD Group


When a family chooses to eat out in a British restaurant, a fast food outlet, or even in a pub or curry house, who makes the decision on where they dine? Foodservice industry figures from global information provider The NPD Group show it’s the kids that dictate the decision in one in four visits.

The NPD Group’s data shows that ‘because my kids like it there’ was one of the main reasons for consumers picking their chosen eating out venue in 24% of family visits. That means kids get their own way around one quarter of the time. With families making 3.18bn eat-out visits in the year ending October 2014, this is equivalent to over 763 million ‘let-the-kids-choose’ visits worth £4bn each year.

Which kind of eating out venue do kids like best? The NPD Group’s Dine Out Pester Power Scorecard shows that branded pub chains appeal most to kids (30% of family visits picked by kids), followed by the well-established fast-food outlets (29%), and the family-friendly casual dining outlets (28%).

“Pester power actually plays a huge role in where families choose to eat out,” said Jack MacIntyre, NPD Group account manager foodservice UK. “This may be surprising to some, as pester power is often associated with more obviously child-focused sectors such as toys or confectionary, but kids clearly have a very important voice in the dining out market too. Parents and kids find it especially attractive when they see kids’ menus that are properly thought through, rather than simply offering smaller portions of the adult menu, and when there is an attractive family meal deal on offer too. Branded pubs are certainly getting this formula right and in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year this could pay dividends. Kids enjoy the stimulating and lively atmosphere of the play areas, different types of seating, board games, music and televisions provided by many branded pubs. It’s paying off in terms of kids telling their parents that’s where they want to eat out.”

Eating out as a ‘treat’ versus the ‘healthy’ choice
When it comes to eating out as a ‘treat’, it’s again the kids who are front of mind. The motivation of ‘treating myself and/or the kids’ was cited as a motivator in 16.8% of the over 11bn eat-out visits recorded year ending October 2014, but this leaps to 27.9% when the eating out visits involve the family.

Do parents think about the need for healthy food and drinks when they eat out with their kids? Apparently not as much as we’d think. The need for ‘something light and balanced’ was cited as a motivator in just 4.3% of family visits. So the contrast between kids getting their own way on the choice of venue (24%/763m family visits) and parents choosing a venue for their kids by thinking mainly about health (4.3%/138m family visits) makes for a difference of some 625m family visits a year.

Families are essential to Britain’s eating out market, accounting for 28.8% of all visits and 31.9% of all sales. Overall the British foodservice market is worth £50.7bn in sales annually (year ending October 2014) with business from families worth £16.1bn. So when a parent agrees to visit a child’s favourite outlet, the kids become the decision makers in a multi-billion pound industry.